What do you call an artist who uses Twitter as their main medium–a Twartist? Ugh, forgive me; I’ve been exposed to too many stupid Twitter puns lately and I still haven’t had enough coffee this Monday morning. As part of my ongoing (if admittedly somewhat half-assed) efforts to track the intersection of contemporary art and social networking technologies, I present for your consideration a couple of interesting upcoming Twitter-related art projects that have crossed my screen of late. The first is “Twitter Island,” a social networking experiment and art performance piece that will take place here in Chicago this Saturday, March 28th.
Organized by Seth Gershberg and Lauri Apple for The Chicago Art Department, the project is limited to 30 volunteer Twitterers who will convene at the Chicago Art Department with their laptops and/or cell phones and be given an anonymous Twitter account. The volunteers will be divided into two groups of fifteen; the control group will be asked to respond to specific questions from a moderator, the other group allowed to tweet to their heart’s content without outside influence. The experiment will last for ninety minutes, after which both groups will be invited to “create something” (as the press release puts it) based on their experience.
Notes Apple, again from the project’s press release:
“What I’m most curious about is the tension that will inevitably be created as people are required to use Twitter to communicate with people who they could just walk over and say hello to — how will this manifest in how the participants act, and what they say? I’ve seen people texting at crowded parties and social functions; why not talk to the people who are already in the room? Also, I have friends who live down the street who don’t call me, but will tweet or Google chat me to tell me how lonely they are. What is driving these choices we’re making, and are we cognizant of the emotions that result from these choices? With Twitter Island, we’re telling people they don’t have a choice to talk to each other — they have to use technology. Will they rebel? Get bored? Get angry? Or will it seem perfectly natural to stay at their computers and phones?”
Secondly, @platea is a still sorta nebulous something that sounds somewhat similar to the Twitter Island project (without the control group part). Spearheaded by artist An Xiao, it’s an ongoing public art meets social media project. On the project’s blog, Xiao offers this description of @platea:
“a stweet art collective consisting of artists and non-artists who share an interest in the power of public art carried out in the digital megacity. “Platea,” from the Latin for “street”, came to signify in medieval theatre a neutral space on stage. It morphed and changed as necessary, depending on the actors’ actions and the assumed setting. I find it a fitting analogy for the swiftly-evolving, redefining nature of social media, whose tenors change with the tide of user activity but whose effect–discussion and connection–remains overall the same.”
I’m still cringing over the term “stweet art,” just give me a few seconds to get over that….ok, better. Xiao was interviewed recently on the blog smArts&Culture (oh yeah, today is gonna be shitty pun day) about her thoughts on Twitter as a medium; she also did a “Twitterview” with art blogger Hrag Vartanian last March 18th that’s hard to follow when read only in retrospect, but a summation of the conversation is supposed to be forthcoming on Vartanian’s blog soon here. In addition, @platea’s first large-scale online “happening” is slated for this week; apparently, you can join in by following @platea on Twitter.
If you wind up participating in either of these events, I’d love to hear your take in the comments.